The Union Recorder

October 23, 2012

Candidate Q & A


The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE —  

DARRELL BLACK

State Senate District 25

Democrat

You have previously run for state office. How did that experience prepare you for this race?

I have had a thriving business in Milledgeville for over a quarter of a century and had been active in many civic, government and church activities. Those activities placed me square in the middle of community conversations, and I listened to fellow citizens talk about their hopes, frustrations and ideas for the county. When I began going door to door in every neighborhood, I learned more about how frustrated people with the state of local politics. 

With our local unemployment rate more than 16 percent (far higher than the state average), I've heard the cry for jobs loud and clear; but, there is also a strong need for optimism. People need to believe the things they care most about — education, the economy and ethics in government — can, and will, get better.

I will work to provide that sort of hope by shaping state policy to get our local economy back on the right track and get people back to work. This means more than just saying ‘create jobs.’ It means creating the right environment for businesses to flourish. It means not just creating jobs — but jobs that pay well. It means providing people the income they need to do business within our community.

What significant legislation would you propose to create a stronger economic environment in Baldwin County? 

In Atlanta, our General Assembly has its priorities mixed up. In recent years, it has continued to pass legislation that gives tremendous tax breaks to special interests while ignoring our citizens. For example, millions have been allowed for new tourist attractions, which have turned out to be boondoggles. Whether it was the much-touted Go Fish program or the billion-dollar planned sports complex in Bartow County (that needs $250 million from the state), the General Assembly has placed priority on pet projects rather than its citizens.

I would work toward eliminating special interest loopholes and reforming our state tax system in a way that has people in mind. After all, it is individual taxpayers who bear the heaviest tax burdens.

I will work with state and local business leaders to put together public/private ventures that look to long-term solutions. Twenty-eight years as a successful small businessman have taught me that setting financial priorities and understanding what you do best are the keys to success.

An educated workforce is the key to successful businesses, rebuilding the economy and creating jobs. I will introduce legislation that ensures that every high school student who shows the ability to go to college can. Not every person, though, is on a college track. For those who plan to go straight into the workforce, I will support legislation that provides for technical school training and creative on-the-job training programs.

What would you have proposed as a contingency plan to Central State Hospital?

When it was first understood by state leaders that Central State Hospital was going to be greatly diminished and phased out, there should have been an obvious and immediate cry for a regional mental health facility. That, however, did not happen. Trading our local Central State Hospital (CSH) for a regional hospital was not the choice everyone wanted, but it was the best choice we had. Since CSH handled both state and local health needs, we have been left with a local void. Instead of accepting the inevitable, our elected officials should have placed our community needs first. Our officials are still a long way from getting this important local problem solved. My hat is off to [CSH Local Redevelopment Authority Executive Director] Mike Couch and [CSH Local Redevelopment Authority Board Chair] Quay Fuller and their committee for their hard work and dedication to the repurposing of CSH. They are all very capable people and they need our support. What our regional mental health care needs is a state senator who is a facilitator between the stakeholder groups and the state government to help with these long-standing challenges. I will help leverage local expertise and experience from a variety of perspectives to develop tangible solutions for our mental health care system and the facilities at Central State Hospital. I pledge my support to them in determining how we move forward.

What qualifies you to be the district’s senator? As a state senator, what would you do differently than the previous leadership as a leader in Atlanta?

As a former teacher and now a small business owner, I understand both the classroom and the boardroom. I want to get Georgia off the mat when it comes to education and I want to get Baldwin County off the bottom of the employment rankings. My passion for solving our unemployment and education crises is greater, I believe, than my opponent who is unfamiliar with working on these problems.

I am the son of two textile mill workers from Cartersville. I learned early the value of hard work and putting family first. My dad died young from cancer, after returning from war and marrying the girl next door. After his death, my mom took in 17 foster children, helping out in the community where she saw the most need. Those are big shoes to fill, but being a part of this community has been one of my great blessings.

I have worked on numerous civic and church organizations to help our community and now I want to take those ideas to the state level so I can have a greater impact for our citizens. I believe we need new leadership and a fresh look at real and responsible solutions to community problems.

We need a state senator who is unafraid to stand up for our community and do the right thing for our citizens’ best interests.

What can you do moving forward as a senator to preserve the assets at Plant Branch to prevent job losses and closures?

In working with the Plant Branch situation, we must understand that it is the federal government (Environmental Protection Department) that holds the trump card in most of these proceedings going forward.

As a community, what we have to do is learn from the mistakes made with Central State Hospital and not duplicate them. These facilities have been critical to our community. Our current representation has failed us.

We must realize that a big change is coming and adapt proactively to make the most of our position, working closely with Georgia Power and their agencies and to let them know that state government should assist the changes and not be an obstacle to local development.

This is exactly the sort of situation I can provide assistance with, serving as mediator and liaison between state government and local projects. We must help protect our local economy and our citizens, while balancing the federal and state requirements that are already in place.

Additional comments?

Obviously, the recent news of an agreement for solar energy plans with the facility is exciting.  I’m hoping to work with Georgia Solar Utilities and Georgia Power in any way I can to make their newly announced partnership develop.

 

BURT JONES

State Senate District 25

Republican

What significant legislation would you propose to create a stronger economic environment in Baldwin County?

I would propose legislation that would re-align state agencies to serve as replacement for the jobs that have been lost due to all the state agencies that have been closed in our district.  Baldwin County has been targeted for a disproportionate amount of cuts as compared to the rest of the state and a re-alignment would help ease the pain of these job losses.

What qualifies you to be the district’s senator?

In addition to meeting the legal qualifications, age, citizenship and residency in state; what qualifies me most is my knowledge of business criteria. This area is in desperate need of economic development, which is my background. As president of JP Capital Insurance, I understand what it takes to create jobs and help with the building of the tax base for the benefit of all the local citizenry.

As a state senator, what would you do differently than the incumbent as a leader in Atlanta.

My first responsibility will be to the citizens in the 25th District. One of the things I would do differently as state senator is to ensure that the state’s agenda did not include a disproportionate cut of state jobs to one local area as has been experienced here in Baldwin County.  

What do you see as the impact of Central State Hospital’s closure in Baldwin County?

The obvious impact is the loss of hundreds of heretofore reliable employment opportunities for Baldwin County citizens. This causes disruption to people’s lives and their livelihood; some of those citizens may have to relocate to other areas to secure employment.

What single legislation would you propose that would have the greatest impact on Baldwin County?

I believe legislation to realign state agencies in a more equitable fashion would have the greatest impact on Baldwin County. (See question 1.)

What would you have proposed as a contingency plan at Central State Hospital?

Had this community been treated fairly, a plan would have been put in place to balance the realignment of state cuts across multiple facilities versus targeting the Baldwin County area.

 

RUSTY KIDD

State House of Representatives District 145

Independent

What can you do moving forward as a representative to preserve the current assets at Plant Branch to prevent job losses and closures?

I have met with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) to talk about the future of Plant Branch. I asked them why closure is being discussed because of green space while at the same time the PSC is granting approval of a new coal power generating plant in Washington County.

I also met once and have another meeting scheduled with Georgia Power to talk about Plant Branch suggesting diversification on the Branch property for solar, windmill and or combination of natural gas / coal generation.

What significant legislation would you propose to create a stronger economic environment in Baldwin County?

First and foremost unless the County Commission and the mayor and City Council get together and not be fighting — wanting to sue each other, we will never get any new industry to Baldwin County.

Hopefully when I/we meet with the Commission of State Economic Development we can convince them to highlight all Baldwin County has to offer to new industries that want to locate in Georgia.

What do you think is the most significant legislation with local impact you voted for or against in the last legislative session?

• Voted for $7.5 million for GMC

• Voted for $9 million for Georgia College

• Voted for $6 million upgrade Bostick Building

• Voted for tax incentive to corporations

• Voted for tasting room for Baldwin County Distillery

• Voted for sales tax holiday

• Voted for balanced budget

• Voted for Marriage Tax

• Voted against T-SPLOST

• Voted against $60+ million tax breaks to Delta Airlines

• Voted against new fee charger (tax increase) to professions and businesses

• Sponsored bill to not charge sales tax on products made in Georgia. 4.5 percent tax on products made in USA and 12 percent tax on products made outside the USA

Sponsored resolution to study abolishing income tax and substituting sales tax or something else, as has our neighboring states Florida and Tennessee. 

Please explain your work toward the redevelopment of CSH.

I sponsored the resolution creating CSH Redevelopment Commission. The governor and others want to find ways to utilize the buildings at CSH. This Commission hopefully will come up with ideas we can present for utilization of some of the buildings and property at CSH.

I also have met with two groups for possible opening the Kidd Building at CSH as a hospital for prisoners.

Why were CSH employees and local health care leaders surprised to hear of the closing at CSH and was there an effective and timely contingency put in place for CSH’s closure by the local delegation in Atlanta?

CSH employees and others did not know of the exact timeframe of some of the closures at CSH. All of us knew it was coming, per the direction of the [former] Commissioner of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), Dr. Shelp. His philosophy [was] that no patient/client should be hospitalized. All should be in community settings. Sen. Grant, Sheriff Massee, ORMC director Jean Aycock and I fought publicly with Dr. Shelp, who took it personally hence the closure of CSH instead of closing facilities in Thomasville, Rome, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus and Savannah.

Dr. Shelp was asked to and did resign [in June]. His replacement is Commissioner Frank Berry.

 

QUENTIN T. HOWELL

State House of Representatives District 145

Democrat

You have previously run for state representative. How did that experience prepare you for this race?

In 2010 when I started my first race as candidate for the State House of Representatives, there were approximately 3,000 people unemployed. By the end of that race, we had over 5,000 people unemployed. Now in 2012, we unfortunately have over 16,000 people unemployed.  The experience I gained from my previous race was to focus on what Milledgeville and Eatonton needs the most — jobs. While my Mr. Rusty Kidd’s priorities appear to be focused on such things as forcing another fraternity house on the citizens of Milledgeville in our historic downtown district and on legislation that deals more with public drinking than jobs, I have learned to stay focused on building the employee basis of Milledgeville and Eatonton Georgia through short and long term plans. I have also learned from my previous experience that if our elected state leaders do not have these plans, our unemployment rates skyrocket and the small business owners, working class, retirees and citizens carry the burden of their shortsightedness.

What significant legislation would you propose to create a stronger economic environment in Baldwin County?

I would introduce legislation to create a special study committee on utilizing state own facilities and properties in Baldwin. Baldwin County is in a unique situation; unlike any other county in the state of Georgia. Over 30 percent of the county is owned by the state, and there are structures and facilities that can be used with minimal repair. Baldwin also unlike other counties already has a trained work force that is capable to start work from day one. This minimizes the state’s cost in training and having to obtain property and facilities. This committee will provide the common sense “business-like” approach that clearly shows it saves the Georgia taxpayers money to utilize the facilities, properties and employees already in Milledgeville instead of continuing buying buildings and hiring people from outside Milledgeville, Georgia. 

What would you have proposed as a contingency plan at Central State Hospital?

I would propose full utilization of all state own property and facilities at Central State Hospital. The old Central State Hospital is an unfortunate example of our current leadership placing all their eggs in one basket and not having a vision or a plan for the future.  The downgrading of central state hospital has been occurring for years and none of our current leadership, including Mr. Rusty Kidd, put a plan in place to stop it. At this point as your state representative my plan will include, but will not be limited to, passing legislation that shows the “common sense” cost saving potential of utilizing the Central State Hospital campus in Milledgeville. Instead of making the campus a virtual ghost town and robbing Milledgeville and surrounding counties of its largest economic bases, I would have proposed using the faculties to house other government departments and agencies, including but not limited to partnering with Georgia College and the Georgia State Economic Development Authority to refocus the mission of Central State Hospital and keep thousands of employees from being laid off and having a horrific rippling effect through our city.

What qualifies you to be the district’s representative? As a state senator, what would you do differently than the incumbent as a leader in Atlanta.

Business, common sense, and experience qualify me to be the state representative for District 145. As a representative, I would aggressively pursue utilizing existing facilities in our district to bring jobs back to Baldwin County. My opponent has spent three terms in Atlanta with misplaced priorities and not enough pull to get the job done. In 2011, the major legislation he worked on was making Baldwin a retirement community, and that legislation first did not make it out of session, and secondly the governor vetoed it. DUIs are the leading killers on our roads and the number one killer of our youth, but in 2012 my opponent’s major legislation was to give people a free pass on DUIs.  When Mr. Kidd presented this legislation, it was laughed out of town.  The number one thing I want to do differently than my opponent is bring jobs back to Milledgeville. With short and long term plans, which include lowering taxes for our citizens and not raising taxes on our small business owners. I will lead on legislation that will move our state public school system from the bottom five of our fifty states to the top ten of the nation. By championing the cause to bring jobs back to Milledgeville, I will be utilizing existing resources such as facilities and properties in Milledgeville with my talks with the Georgia Economic Development authority to start being aggressive on job creation in Baldwin County

How do you weigh party pressures to vote as a block versus voting in the best interest of your constituents and work in bi-partisanship for the best interest of the district?

I have never considered or experience any party pressure to vote or place my loyalties to a block. I will always vote on issues in the best interest for my district and constituents and work in a bipartisanship manner for the best interest of citizens in Milledgeville and my district.

 

EMILY C. DAVIS

Baldwin County Commission District 1

Democrat

Are you for or against local government unification? What would you consider the strongest argument for unification and the strongest against it?

Consolidating government is hard to do. It is very difficult to pull off. Somebody has to give up power, and I have heard more about defeats than victories. Personally, I do not have a problem with consolidation as long as it is well-planned for maybe for a period of three to five years. When I fully understand the pros and cons, taking a good look at what is involved and what is expected of each, I will be in a better position to decide for or against. Some counties are doing great with unification, while others are having problems. I realize all counties and cities are different. I think there must be a good working relationship between the two, without prejudice, malice or political difference.

The strongest argument for unification is that some citizens feel that it is better to deal with one government. Business and industries will be more willing to locate in an area with only one government to deal with. Unification is considered as progress.

The strongest argument against unification is the concerns of services going up and jobs abolished. There will be an increase of services to taxpayers. A single government will be less responsive to our citizens and public demands. There will also be a concern about pensions and retirement funds.

As a whole, I think unification should be so well planned that city, county and the citizens of the community will fully understand all the details, and that the financial burden is taken care of. Checks and balances are in place and our tax dollars are spent wisely.

The county has had an interim county manager in place for two years. What leadership will you give to ensure that this matter is addressed going forward and that a permanent county manager is put in place?

The position of county manager is an appointed position by the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners. I feel like we, the current board of commissioners, should have addressed this earlier. I am hoping that the board will address this issue soon.

How will you address issues regarding the county’s finances? Are there areas that should not be cut?

The county has cut over $4 million since 2009 due to loss revenue. We are continuing to look for ways to make the county run more effectively. I don’t think jobs and furloughs should be cut.

What qualifies you to represent your district? As a county commissioner what would you do differently your opponent?

I feel that I am qualified to represent my district because of the extensive and mandatory training offered by the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia. Through training and the vast resources offered, I am in position to make good, sound decisions for our county. I have four years experience on the board of commissioners. I have earned the respect and good relationship with my constituents. I am accessible and always make sure their problems are taken care of.

I don’t know what my opponent’s agenda will be on the board of commissioners, but I will focus on bringing jobs and more industry to our county; making sure fair taxes are put into place for everyone; making good decisions about issues that will affect our county and community; focus on balancing the budget; focus on what is best for our county; better roads, and so many other things that we as a board can accomplish if we have good communication and knowledge of what is best for our county and its constituents.

I will continue to uphold and maintain high ethics and moral standards, know my constituents, and be accessible for their needs; respect my fellow commissioners and staff; be honest with the public, media and other officials; have confidence in myself and my qualifications. I will strive to do my best along with my fellow commissioners to restore Baldwin County so it will be one of the best counties in Georgia. I have the spirit to serve not to be served. Although I represent District 1, I was elected to serve on the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners, but I will be the commissioner for all the people, not just District 1.

How do you propose eliminating issues related to the county convenience centers?

We were told by management the reason for the convenience centers being closed was due to the fact that the cost was greater than the revenue generated. We would have to have additional revenue by increasing the monthly fees. The county is still responsible for picking up sofas, broken furniture and other items that people dump on the streets. This is an issue that the board needs to look into to see how the cost balances out — the convenience centers or county trucks picking up curbside items.

Additional comments?

I am Emily C. Davis, the Baldwin County Commissioner for District 1. I would like to thank all of my supporters, constituents and community for your trust in me during my four years in office. I have been accessible and dependable. I have developed a good relationship with management, county employees and constituents. I am a member of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, the SCLS, a life member of the NAACP, member of Sisterhood (HIV/AIDS awareness), member of Georgia Association of Educators, the Georgia Association of Black Elected County Officials, employed by the Baldwin County Board of Education. I was elected to be on the host committee for the National Federation of Congressional Legislative Women and I am a member of Trinity CME Church and attend Green Pasture Church regularly.

Baldwin County has gone through a financial and economic crisis. I, along with my fellow commissioners, must prepare to educate, rebuild and strengthen our economy. We must rebuild our infrastructure and do everything we can as a commission to balance our budget. I hope that we can do this without layoffs. If the economy is growing robustly, it will be good for the county, city, community and everyone. From time to time, I have had to make difficult decisions about issues in the community without 100 percent cooperation from my fellow commissioners. I was elected to office by the people and for the people. I will continue to serve the community to the best of my ability.

 

LAWSON LAWRENCE

Baldwin County Commission District 1

Republican

Are you for or against local government unification? What would you consider the strongest argument for unification and the strongest against it?

On the issue of government unification — It’s long overdue. Duplicating services in communities our size is a waste of revenue that has become harder and harder to collect.

What qualifies you to represent your district? As a county commissioner what would you do differently than the incumbent?

My experience with solving problems that business owners face on a day-to-day basis I feel will help qualify me as a candidate for the commission. As we all know, running the county requires very similar demands as those placed private business owners. My 35 years of this experience in multiple fields such as managing small businesses, real estate development sales and management of diversified commercial entities I feel gives me far greater qualifications than my opponent.

How do you propose eliminating issues related to the county convenience centers?

Closing our county convenience centers was one of the biggest mistakes our commission has made in recent years. We must take a very close look at the recycling possibilities that may lie in the counties waste.

 

FAYE SMITH

Baldwin County Commission District 4

Democrat

Do you feel commissioners have been advised adequately on  the upkeep of recreation facilities and how can the process be streamlined  to ensure the upkeep of county facilities moving  forward?

I do believe that we have been kept aware of the various needs at the recreation facilities. There is always room for improvement. I know our facilities are definitely used and occasionally abused. We need to jump faster when something goes astray with any facet of the facility, from maintenance of the buildings to the care of the various sports fields. I realize that so much of that attention to the recreation facilities goes hand and hand as to how quickly revenues flow in from our various funding resources.

The board of commissioners currently does not hold work sessions, but school board and City Council do. Do you think the commission should hold work sessions? Why or why not?

I certainly do not have a problem with work sessions. We have held work sessions before the public for various circumstances. The average citizen goes into the commissioners’ office on the third floor of the courthouse to give information, share, praise or complain about anything that is not accommodating to them. Our employees are there to be able to assist with anything that may complicate a citizen's expectations of services. Again, I would not be against work sessions when necessary.

 

The county has had an interim county manager in place for two years. What leadership will you give to ensure that this matter is addressed going  forward and that a permanent county manager is put in place?

I certainly do want us to name our permanent manager. I was ready to do that the first of this year. I do believe that it is time to make that decision. We have sat on this issue too long! As far as I am concerned, I do believe that the board needs to act professionally with respect and dignity toward our interim manager’s work history during these difficult revenue times. I really do not think that the five of us have respected him as if he were permanent. I am sure that a decision will come shortly!   

 

Are you for or against local government unification? What would you consider the strongest argument for unification and the strongest against it?

When I was campaigning for state senator in 1998, I was asked at a town hall meeting what I thought about local government unification. The legislation had just passed. I replied then and I stand by my reply now: the process is tough. Getting city and county elected officials who have their very own view of the good and the bad of this process to forget turf and start slowly. Generally those departments would be those that have similar duties, such as city, county fire departments, sheriff’s department and city police department. The strongest argument for would be that we save money, taxpayers money, but that has not necessarily been the circumstances as reported by those

unified governments. The strongest argument against would be how hard is the process to rescind the legislation that creates city/county government, if it  fails, to  be  fair to our citizens.

      

How will you address issues regarding the county’s finances? Are there areas that should not be cut?

Every year that I have served on this commission, we have battled financial distress. We didn't bring this revenue shortfall along with our elections in 2008. The effect of the recession was already growing and we have been forced to work diligently to make every effort to use our revenue resources very conservatively. I know Faye real well! I have always taken any position that I have held, whether within the public sector or within the political venue to be most serious. I have lived and worked in Milledgeville, Baldwin County for 44 years. When the department heads come before me, I respect the needs that each of them request. Each of my years of service to the board has been to ask the department heads to go back and rethink what can be reduced on their wish list. Just recently in a regular meeting, we all agreed to ask the various departments to cut 5 percent, 10 percent, 15 percent, in areas that each department feels can be reduced and reduced again. I personally will continue to watch carefully areas that I as your commissioner can save county revenues. I have not attended extra training beyond what is expected to be good information, which will help me be a better public servant for all the constituents. I have supported locating any type of grant funding, which basically comes from another agency's budget. My pledge is to encourage those that I work with and serve with to remember that any money that passes through the commission's doors belongs to the residents. I enjoy serving Baldwin County and I wholeheartedly want  this county to gain financially by encouraging our community to work together for the financial backbone  that  we  need  desperately. There has to be  a  continuity  of effort to support  each  other in efforts  to  attract  new jobs and become more and  more  supportive  of new ideas for financial  stability.

 

HENRY R. CRAIG

Baldwin County Commission District 4

Republican

How do you propose eliminating issues related to the county convenience centers?

The current trash/refuse disposal plans do not provide for the needs of our rural county. We have only to look at the sides of our roads to make a visual decision about our trash policies. Compare what you see on the side of the roads in our county to other counties.  The county’s failure can also be seen off our roads in gullies now collecting new trash and yard waste that did not fit into the curbside trash can. In my opinion, it can also be seen in the convenience centers of counties on the borders of Baldwin County.

Baldwin County needs new businesses and residents.  First impressions are very important.  Does our community make a good first impression about how we look or our policies about trash and other types of refuse?  Are our policies progressive and modern?  Likely future businesses and residents would likely be interested in our community philosophy about recycling and protecting our environment.  Our current policies have little focus on either.  We are likely one of the most “Un-Green” communities in our state!

There is no other county issue that I am aware of that residents of the county are overwhelming dissatisfied with.  I have not met with anyone who agrees with current county policy.  I have been attending County Commissioner Meetings for months.  The distribution of county dollars is decided by priorities.  The County Commissioners have made an error with their priorities with current policies about refuse/trash disposal.  The convenience centers should be reopened. 

The board of commissioners does not hold work sessions, but school board and city council do.  Do you think the commissioners should hold work sessions?  Why or why not?

Absolutely yes, work sessions should be required. 

The people of Baldwin County’s business cannot be decided in the few minutes of two commissioner meetings a month.  Our county’s business should be decided with the same care, research, and discussion that we manage our businesses or homes.  The resources managed by the county commissioners and other county officials are precious and decisions about the distribution of resources and county policies should be decided very carefully with the opportunity and environment to make the best possible decisions. The commissioners must have the opportunity to make decisions with comprehensive understanding of the related issues.

It is my opinion that candidates for commissioner must realize that time requirements to make the most informed decisions about county issues far exceed the requirement to attend commission meetings.  I do not think the meetings necessary to prepare for making county decisions should require any compensation by the county.  It should be understood that the decision to serve the residents of Baldwin County should not be financially driven in any way.  Commissioners work for their families, friends, and neighbors.

The county has had an interim county manager in place for two years. What leadership will you give to ensure that this matter is addressed going forward and that a permanent county manager is put in place?

An experienced and qualified permanent county manager is essential to the future of our county.

I would encourage the county commissioners to start the process to formally fill the county manager position.  The commissioners should review the current county documents describing the experience and qualifications of the position. Revise the position description as necessary to insure the person selected meets the requirement to fully manage and make decisions about county policies, daily routine county finance issues, and work issues.  He/she should also have the experience and interest necessary to work with city counterparts and local civic organizations.  Our county manager must have the ability to work with the commissioners to manage effectively current issues and participate in the development of a vision of the county’s future and the path necessary to achieve it.

The process should be inclusive of those currently employed by the county, and provide for wide access for outside opportunity to anyone who meets the qualifications and experience necessary.  I would recommend a board be selected, comprised of county government leaders and local civic leaders to make recommendations about qualifications and experience requirements.  That board would make recommendations to the elected commissioners for final selection. 

County leadership is essential to good local county government.  Naming a fulltime/permanent county manager should have very high priority for the county commissioners.

Are you for or against local government unification? What would you consider the strongest argument for unification and the strongest against it?

It should make no difference if a commissioner is for or against unification of county and city governments.  Commissioners do not vote as a county commissioner about unification.  It is up to the residents of the county and city to decide.  If they want to consider unification they will have the opportunity to vote as a city/county resident.

County commissioners should not stand in the way or impede individuals or organizations who desire to seek information about unification.  Opportunities for local residents to be informed about the unification process or the possible opportunities or benefits (or not) should be encouraged.  Just the process of informed residents working together with county and city leaders may provide opportunity to maximize local resources even outside unification.  County and City resources are precious.  Any opportunity to save county/city resources, expand county/city services, and/or reduce the tax burden of tax payers should be encouraged.

As a county resident, I have attended meetings to insure I understood the unification process and associated issues.  It was obvious there may be opportunity to maximize combined county and city resources resulting in possible greater services to residents and/or reducing taxes.  One presentation highlighted MIL rate tax reductions were experienced by some communities that unified.  I am also aware that many businesses see benefits to areas with one combined government.  We are desperate for new businesses in our community.  We need jobs more than anything!

How will you address issues regarding the county’s financial deficit? Are there areas that should not be cut?

I have attended most of the county commissioner meetings for the last several months. I have read very disturbing accusations by city and local organizations about money that was allegedly not provided to them by our county.  I also read and heard county leaders describe the county’s financial situation in contradictory terms.   It is clear there are financial issues, but the Commissioners still recently approved replacement of serviceable road equipment and approved purchase of additional expensive road equipment.

I believe the county’s financial situation is a mystery to those that are not in a position to see all the revenues, expenses, and obligations. It is impossible for me to make specific comment about the county’s financial situation because I do not have all the information necessary.  It is my opinion, there are serious revenue and expense issues that must be resolved.  If I were a new commissioner, it may be necessary to seek the opinion and advice of appropriately experienced civic leaders.  Working with other Commissioners, I am positive we could resolve current financial issues and provide for moving Baldwin County into a positive financial future. The future must include new businesses, jobs, and growth.

If difficult financial decisions are required, areas that are associated with health and safety would be almost untouchable. All other areas not associated with health and safety, may have to be considered. Open and encouraged involvement of civic leaders and organizations must be included. If required to consider reductions, open public discussions would be essential.

Additional comments?

Business and employment opportunity in Baldwin County continues to decline. Recently, approximately 500 additional job reductions were announced at the Central State Hospital. In our lifetime, employment and career opportunity has never been worse.  Our community is in crisis! We must actively begin to make new opportunities. 

I believe we must:

• Make an emergency community priority of improving our unemployment issues.

• Work with all our community elected officials, business leaders, faith leaders, and organization leaders to insure a variety of career and work opportunities for our children and grandchildren.

• Improve community education by working with the School Board, Board of Education, education groups like ASPIRE, and adult literacy groups.

• Encourage the open participation of individuals and groups in our community to guide our county decision makers towards the best possible decisions.

• Expect a definable return for every investment of precious county resources.

• Have a strategic future plan for our community that guides the daily resource decisions of our elected and appointed leaders.

We deserve better county leadership. Our elected leaders must commit themselves to the priority of bringing careers and jobs to our community.  We must work together for local opportunities for our children and grandchildren. 

I have the training and experience necessary to focus our county leadership on career and job opportunities. I will improve the management of our county’s precious resources. I will work with all leaders in our community to develop a plan and map to our future.

 

DWAYNE SENTELL

Baldwin County Commission District 5

Democrat

As a citizen and a local business owner, you have previously objected to changes to the county’s code enforcement on blight. How would you address issues related to county code enforcement as it relates to blight and properties that are not  kept up and maintained within your district?

No not on blight. This was on additional restrictions being put on new or existing business which was  called  CORRIDOR GATEWAY, which  would have cost a new  business or church an additional 30  percent in additional cost, if we want Baldwin county to be business friendly, then we didn't need this kind of regulations. We have enough laws covering this now and the word (BLIGHT) covers a lot of things, but for example would you like your mother who is 80 years old and has a very limited income for the county to come in and fine her a $150 a day  after she has been notified by code enforcements that  her grass is over 2 inches taller, than is allowed by code, I don't think so. Now on the other hand, a house that has been repossessed by the lender, who  owns the property can be held responsible for it, and in most cases will take  care of it because, he is going to resale  it.



What qualifies you to represent  your district?

The people that live here in Baldwin county must live  within there budgets and they deserve a leader than understands there problems  and there concerns, and most of all do what they want  done.

What sets you apart from the other two candidates in this race?

I  think as a business man, I better understand how government affects both businesses and people's personal  lives.

How will you address issues regarding the county’s financial deficit? Are there areas that should not be cut?

First of all if we want this community to attract senior citizens like the Chamber of Commerce wants to, then we can't raise property taxes. So the only other answer is through cuts. We must not cut items that are very beneficial to the community and Baldwin County.

Are you for or against local government  unification?

Until a complete plan can show how everything will be done then I  can't answer this question right now, the plan floating around is flawed as it  doesn't address a lot of issues that need addressed.

The board of commissioners currently does not hold work sessions, but school board and City Council do. Do you think the commission should hold work sessions? Why or why not?   

I think work session are good because here is where problems should be handled.

Additional comments?

In closing we must work together as one, with the city leaders, in order for the county to move forward for the betterment  of the county, and may I say a county commissioner just doesn't represent  the people in the unincorporated area,  they represent the people in the  city limits as well. I would appreciate your vote on Nov.  6      

 

 

JOHNNY WESTMORELAND

Baldwin County Commission District 5

Republican

How would you address issues related to county code enforcement as it relates to blight and properties that are not kept up and maintained within your district?

This issue is very important to attract growth to our district and county. To my knowledge, there is no ordinance in place to enforce. I would like to work with District 5 leaders such as Pastor’s, business folks and other folks within the neighborhoods to develop a plan of action that would work for our District. Involving the people will empower them to do better and take pride in their community. In addition, I would work with the other county commissioners to develop a plan and policy, which would address this situation county wide.  A partnership between county government and the citizens will be critical to correct this situation. 

How do you propose eliminating issues related to the county convenience center?

The decisions made by our county officials to close the convenience centers and their rational for their decisions are unknown to me at this time, so it is difficult for me to address this without that background.  However, I do see the destruction of our roads which are caused by the heavy trucks entering our neighborhoods to pick up the trash, I see the roadway’s all over the county strewn with trash which has blown out from the trucks and most importantly, everywhere I go, the number one question I am ask is “What are you going to do about this trash situation?” This will be one of my priorities when elected as District 5 County Commissioner.  This trash situation must be revisited and improved.  We cannot continue to ignore the voices of the citizens. 

What qualifies you to represent your district?  What sets you apart from the other two candidates in this race?

I have 37 years of experience from my employment with Robins Air Force Base – from the “worker bee” to management level.  I know how to get the job done!  I have also been attending County Commission meetings for the last two years simply because I wanted to be knowledgeable of our county business.  I have gained valuable knowledge on many issues through this process.  I have created a working relationship with the county officials.  I care about our county and our citizens.  I know that most of the issues our county is facing can be solved by using the 3 C’s I have been campaigning on:  1) Community: the citizens of the community must get involved at the ground level of issues relating to the county.  They need to be seen and heard.  2) Communication: the community must be kept informed by holding quarterly town hall meetings to listen and discuss their concerns.  All County Commission meetings should be web-archived for transparency and 3) Common Sense: We need to ask these questions on all issues presented — do we really need it and can we really afford it?  If either one of these questions results in a no answer I will vote NO!

What sets me apart from my opponents — I am RETIRED & READY TO SERVE!

How will you address issues regarding the county’s finances? Are there areas that should not be cut?

To address the financial deficit of our county I need to know how our money is being spent.  All budgets within the county should be reviewed to insure that all departments are being fiscally responsible and accountable.  Here again we need to ask “Do we really need it” and “Can we really afford it.” We cannot continue to operate by spending more than what revenue is generated. Until we get the spending under control I would say nothing is “off the table.” If we have to go line by line on the budgets we must find ways to become fiscally responsible.

Are you for or against local government unification?  What would you consider the strongest argument for unification and the strongest against it?

I am for local government unification. As we seek to meet the needs of the city and county we are faced with duplication of services and regulations.  This becomes a financial burden for all of us.  The best statement I’ve heard recently concerning unification comes from Eric Erickson’s column in the Macon Telegraph dated July 13: “There are an infinite number of unknown possibilities with consolidation, some are good and some are bad. What we know more than anything else, however, is where we are and where we are headed.” We must find ways to improve our city and county governments to become a more efficient county.

 

 

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